February 07, 2017

Mike Napoli and the Texas Rangers are working toward another reunion, this time to fill pressing needs the AL West champions have for a first baseman and another big bat in the middle of the lineup.

The slugger and the team have been negotiating a contract, a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press. That person spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday because talks were ongoing.

Texas general manager Jon Daniels didn't respond to messages from the AP.

The AL West champion Rangers would have to clear a spot on their 40-man roster for Napoli, which means a deal may not be finalized until after spring training opens.

Napoli hit a career-high 34 homers last year in his only season with Cleveland, where he signed as a free agent after spending the final two months of the 2015 season in Texas.

Mitch Moreland won a Gold Glove as the Rangers' primary first baseman last season, but became a free agent and agreed to a $5.5 million, one-year deal with Boston. Prince Fielder was forced to quit playing last summer after his second neck surgery, while big hitters Carlos Beltran and Ian Desmond also left in free agency.

In his first season with the Rangers in 2011, Napoli hit .320 with 30 homers in 113 regular-season games and had 10 RBIs in the World Series. He was the starting catcher for the AL All-Star team in 2012, though he also played first base during that two-year span in Texas before going to the Red Sox in free agency.

The Rangers reacquired Napoli in a trade from Boston in August 2015, and he ended the season with them starting 11 games at first base, 11 in left field and one more as the designated hitter. A free agent again after that season, Napoli signed with the Indians.

Fielder has a contract through 2020, so he has to remain on the roster. He can be shifted to the 60-day DL and no longer count against the 40-man limit once spring training opens.

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AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.

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